Capturing Hitchcock: Recreating an Iconic Movie Camera

Few movies are more iconic than Rear Window, and few cameras and more iconic than the one used by Jimmy Stewart in the film. Don't miss this fascinating video that tracks down the camera. 

Coming to you from Bayliss Projects, this extremely intriguing video dives deep into the iconic camera setup seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal 1954 film Rear Window. Film buffs and photographers alike will be absolutely fascinated by the decade-long journey to definitively identify and finally acquire the exact model of camera and lens used by Stewart’s character in the classic movie. 

Meticulously studying film stills, publicity photos, and countless screenshots, Bayliss embarks on a mission to determine the precise camera brand and model used onscreen. Through careful visual analysis and detailed online research, he determines the camera is a 1950s-era Exakta VX 35mm single-lens reflex camera made by the legendary German company Ihagee in East Germany during the postwar period. The exotic telephoto lens paired with the Exakta is identified as an exceptionally rare 400mm f/5.6 manufactured in Munich by the renowned German lens maker Kilfitt. 

Over a period of many years, multiple copies of both the exact Exakta camera and the Kilfitt lens are purchased through exhaustive searching in an effort to match every minute detail seen in Rear Window. For example, Bayliss finds the need to source different versions of the Exakta VX camera made specifically for the US market versus European customers in order to accurately replicate subtle differences in layout and finish. 

The video also contains a true wealth of engrossing trivia and anecdotes that camera enthusiasts especially will certainly relish with delight. For instance, Bayliss shares how Kilfitt’s exemplary reputation for quality control in the 1950s famously included providing photographers with a jeweler’s loupe and an individual test photo plate to minutely inspect their expensive telephoto lens upon purchase. He also highlights odd and ingenious features of the Exakta like the concealed film-cutting blade built into early SLR camera bodies to facilitate mid-roll film swaps.

Ultimately, after years of seeking out and restoring the Rear Window camera setup, Bayliss artfully uses his rare gear to photograph songbirds in the backyard. Check out the fascinating video above for the full, extensive rundown and backstory from Bayliss himself on recreating this slice of cinema history. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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